Special Report

10 Deadliest Diseases in the World

Disease is responsible for by far the most deaths worldwide. The first eight of the 12 leading causes of death globally are all diseases, and only two of the next four — road injury and preterm birth — are not diseases. Noncommunicable diseases accounted for 68% of the 56 million deaths in 2012. Three in every 10 deaths worldwide, or 17.5 million deaths, were caused by cardiovascular diseases.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 diseases that caused the most deaths in 2012. Ischaemic heart disease is the leading global killer, with 7.4 million deaths. Tuberculosis, which was attributed to 900,000 deaths worldwide, rounds out the top 10.

Cardiovascular illnesses, cancers, diabetes, and chronic lung diseases are the four major noncommunicable diseases. Many forms of these diseases can be prevented, if not cured, and all can be treated. Nearly three-quarters of deaths from these noncommunicable diseases occurred in low- and middle-income nations. This high proportion means poor access to treatment is by far the largest driver of death from these diseases.

Click here to see the 10 deadliest diseases in the world.

The poverty rate in nearly every region of the world has declined by half since 1990 — except in sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 40% of the population lives in extreme poverty, a more modest improvement from previous decades. HIV/AIDs, one of the world’s deadliest diseases and the deadliest communicable disease, is a major cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa. The vast majority of all people globally with HIV live in the region. According to the World Health Organization, the incidence of HIV decreased due to increased availability of treatment.

The nature of a disease can vary geographically. For example, while the death rate from COPD is similar in lower- and upper-middle income countries, the causes of the disease are different. In lower to middle income countries, the primary cause of COPD is exposure to air pollution. In upper-middle income countries, on the other hand, the primary cause of COPD is tobacco use.

Similarly, risk factors, which may not directly cause a disease but can increase the risk of being sick, vary across income groups. Alcohol and tobacco use, obesity, and high blood pressure — which are associated with heart disease and cancer — are the greatest risk factors in high-income countries. These risk factors account for most healthy years of life lost. In low-income countries, by contrast, malnutrition, starvation, and suboptimal breastfeeding drive mortalities from disease.

Another differentiating factor between low- and high-income countries is age. For example, the likelihood of cardiovascular disease goes up with age. For this reason, the incidence of these heart diseases tends to be higher in wealthier countries, where people live longer.

To identify the world’s deadliest diseases, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the total number of deaths in 2012 from diseases estimated by the World Health Organization. The estimated number of deaths in 2000 also came from the WHO.

These are the world’s deadliest diseases.

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